VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Amitayus
1931.48.6
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The statue of Amitayus in the Gösta Montell Collection (31.48.6) is one of the largest statues in the collection. The upper part of the body, from the waist, is separately cast and decorated with loose jewels, the vessel and the crown. The lotus throne on which the lower part of the body rests has two rows of petals that do not cover the back of the statue. The statue is gilded, but the hair and the loose locks are painted blue. The wooden base, which is secured by metal tabs along the edge of the lotus throne, is painted with a Vajra-cross with the Yin-Yang sign at its centre.

History of the Object
Amitayus, “Endless Time” – a manifestation of the Buddha Amitabha – is above all the Buddha of longevity who, at the end of their lives, releases living beings from the sufferings of rebirth and conveys them to his Buddha land of Sukhavati. Commissioning and paying for images of him was believed to prolong the life of the buyer or recipient. The Manchu rulers of China particularly invoked him to this end, through prayers, rites and the commissioning of images. The Emperor Qianlong commissioned thousands of Amitayus statues for his mother’s sixtieth, seventieth and eightieth birthdays. On the occasion of his own seventieth birthday, he received 19,934 statues from his subjects. For similar reasons Amitayus often figures on portable altars and in amulet boxes.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
Gilded metal, paint, jewels, wood 
Measurements
Height 45 cm  
Creator name
unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China; Tibet 
Geography
China; Tibet 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th century 
Function
worship 
Acquisition
Sven Hedin, the famous Swedish explorer, whose early expeditions were undertaken single-handed or with just a few native companions, organised his last great expedition, between 1927 and 1935, as a major research project. His many European and Chinese assistants included Gösta Montell, who in the late 1920s was on the staff of the Ethnography Department of the Gothenburg Museum. On his travels in China as Sven Hedin’s expert adviser on purchase of “Ethnographica”, he collected large quantities of material for the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm. On the instructions of Erland Nordenskiöld, his teacher, Montell also dispatched a large collection of Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian artefacts to Gothenburg, including a number of Buddhist statues and paintings. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Museum of World Culture, Sweden 
Museum
Museum of World Culture 
Credit line
 

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